The Outer Dark with Nicole Cushing

The latest episode of The Outer Dark podcast series is out now. This episode sees Scott Nicolay interview Nicole Cushing, the author of the chilling novellas Children of No One and I am the New God. Cushing has a new novel out now from Word HordeMr. Suicide– which I will be ordering come pay day and can’t wait to read. I’ve raved about Cushing before and everyone should go and buy Mr. Suicide right now and then also pick up her novellas as ebooks so that you can read those whilst waiting for the book to arrive.

You can listen to the interview here. Enjoy.

Buy Mr. Suicide here.

Watch This: Urban Ghost Story (1998)

I do love me some supernatural horror -not werewolves, vampires, and the like but I do like a good ghost story. I love ghost stories, I think, because I am such a rationalist and the presence of ghosts is probably the greatest of the ruptures with the real that we see in the supernatural horror canon -certainly more so than the other traditional monsters that we see stalking the pages and screens of the genre.

There is however one thing that has repeatedly bugged me about ghost stories and films and that is the class of the people who are, usually, affected by the supernatural events. It isn’t true in 100% of cases but there does seem to be a preponderance of upper middle class people affected by things that go bump in the night. It is almost as if regular working class people are immune to the attentions of the dearly no-quite departed. I know that there are exceptions to this but they are exceptions and exceptio probat regulam in casibus non exceptis eh?

What confuses me about the lack of working people in supernatural horror films is that the economic situation of working class people is such that fleeing from the horror isn’t even remotely an option -or is at least going to be far more difficult that it is an automatic source of tension and conflict.

I’m not sure how much of this is a hangover from the Gothic tale and the works of M.R. James but I do much prefer a story where I can relate somewhat to the life experiences of the characters and to the non-supernatural troubles that they face.

As I said, there are some exceptions to this. One exceptional exception is the 1998 BBC film Urban Ghost Story.

The story follows the events following the joy riding accident that nearly kills the 12 year old protagonist and does kill her equally young friend. Twelve year old Lizzie lives with her Mum and younger brother in a small flat in a Glaswegian high rise. After the accident strange things start happening and Lizzie’s mother, Kate, does her best to try and protect her daughter from events but she is hampered by her economic position and all the generally shitty things that we have to deal with on a daily basis.

It is a beautifully bleak film which does a great job of capturing at least some of the reality of life for working people in the UK and uses that reality to further problematise the supernatural troubles that beset the family. There are one or two problems with the film -the reinforcing of the myth of young working class women getting pregnant simply to get a council flat is a glaring one- but on the whole it is a brilliant example of a working class ghost story.

It hasn’t been on television for about five years -which is no surprise as it looks like it was filmed on video and so maybe wouldn’t appeal to those who expect everything in HD- but it is available on DVD and, I’m sure, it will be available somewhere like the Pirate Bay. If you get the chance to watch this I highly recommend doing so. 🙂

Belief is Beggared

When I posted a couple of days ago about David A. Riley the vile Neo-Nazi horror writer from England I expected the majority of people to be horrified by him and repulsed by his views and that those that weren’t would be somewhat quiet about it and shy away from the discussion. I do tend to think the best of people.

Of course, as is too often the case, I was disappointed. There’s a discussion going on on the Facebook page of a notable British author, I’m not going to say who as we’ll see how the conversation plays out, and there are a number of people coming out with the most batshit things in defence of Riley and, by extension, fascism. I’ll leave a couple of the choicer comments here. For posterity. 😀

I commented:

Hi [redacted], I’m the person that posted the blog about David A. Riley, based on the findings of others, and I have to say that it isn’t simply a matter of choice and preference. The activities of Neo-Nazis like Riley put people’s actual lives at risk.

All the affability in the world cannot lessen the contempt all civilised and rational people ought to feel for fascism. It is not a ‘political opinion’ to believe that the mechanised slaughter of 6 million Jews is in any way ok. As the National Front–who Riley supports do. ‘How can we reasonably expect that holocaust justification does not have serious implications for the safety of Jews, gypsies, the disabled, people of colour, gay people, *in the here and now*? If even ‘nice guy’ Nazis (which is, of course, an oxymoron) are tolerated that gives confidence to the active elements of that movement to act upon their beliefs. That leads to families being burnt out of their homes, to kids being stabbed to death, to bombs blowing up pubs where people the Nazis hate socialise. Support for people like Riley has direct material consequences in the real world as does publicly denouncing fascists like Riley.

It isn’t simply about boycotting the scumbag that is David A. Riley but about making it loud and clear that fascism is not welcome in civilised society. It is about making our society a safe place for all who live in it.

And then came the responses.

Geoff W replied:

We all have our own ideal and opinions. We all have thoughts and views and that is our choice. I’m not one for forcing my opinion on people, but would challenge what i disagree with, but this doesn’t change the fact that a person with different opinions is a bad person. I’ve read posts mentioning Hitler here, but just because he made some very poor choices, does that stop him from being a nice person? Eva Braun enjoyed his company. He was also a fine artist, creative and passionate. Let me also mention Gandhi, who is recognised all over the world as a peaceful man, yet he brought violence to the world causing chaos in India, supported racial segregation in South Africa. Things are not always that clear cut.

And then Uwe S:

While we call ourselves “civilised”, a sad sign of the times is the rush back to the Middle Ages. We’re back to witch-hunting, with people accused and burned at the stake at suspicion, with fire and brimstone the only instruments to clean you of your sinful steps since that moment of birth. Nowadays, we call it “political correctness”. So, Ladies and Gentlemen: never talk to somebody, never work with somebody until you have read the Inquisition’s notes – and even then you’re not out of danger, for in the end you’re sinful for being born from man and woman.

I do hope that it is simply ignorance on the part of these particular people. Still, crazy.


Hinterland Out Now

My wee collection of stories is now available on the Kindle store globally. It’s £2/$3/€2,99 and has five stories. I will be releasing it as a paperback via Lulu once I’ve gotten the relevant tax shenanigans sorted out -hopefully in the next week or two. I’ll obviously post a link to that here when it is available.

To buy the ebook click the relevant link:

UK USA Canada Australia Germany France Spain Italy Netherlands Japan Brazil Mexico India

#LadyHags: Women in Horror Month


It be Women in Horror Month, wahey! Don’t worry lads, only another couple of weeks and we’ll be back to Men in Everything 11 Months so don’t be worrying your pretty little heads over it. 😉 To be fair to my fairer sex all the posts from men that I’ve seen about WiHM have been extremely positive. However there is always someone who insists on behaving like something of a douche and, more than likely, starts speaking without engaging their brain-mouth filter.

Ridiculous cockwombles aside I think that any excuse to celebrate the fantastic fiction produced by women is a valid excuse. So I thought I would share some thoughts on some absolutely amazing women writers that I’ve discovered over the last few years.

Nicole Cushing






Nicole Cushing has been producing short fiction in the Bizarro and Weird fiction genres for a good while now but it is her two longer pieces that I really want to bring to people’s attention –Children of No One (UK, USA) and I am the New God (UK, USA).

I first discovered Cushing’s work when I was searching online for work by Thomas Ligotti and this name kept on cropping up. Nicole Cushing, Nicole Cushing, Children of No One. My interest was piqued and so I decided to download Children of No One from Amazon. I’m not really a fan of ebooks on account of not having an e-ink reader and so having to read on my phone -I can’t read long texts on a screen and tend to even print off short stories rather than read them online. I devoured Children of No One however and went straight out to pre-order I am the New God.

Children of No One is a dark, very dark, look at the extremes to which a person can go when they are driven by a single goal and who are convinced of the overwhelming value of their desires. The story follows an extremely wealthy individual as he attempts to get access to an underground, highly illegal, art installation. Throw in a hefty dose of occult mystery and the disgusting attitude of the elite towards poor and working people and you have a disturbing, chilling, and fantastical tale of a very human darkness.

Cushing’s second novella, I am the New God, is perhaps, for the most part, a more traditional horror tale of madness and murder. A highly disturbed young man is contacted by, an, equally disturbed, monk who convinces him of his divine destiny. This results in twisted experiments to test the veracity of the monk’s claims, a murderous road trip, and a gloriously twisted and ecstatic finale.

Cushing has two books being released this year. A collection of short fiction  -The Mirrors from Cycatrix Press and her debut novel Mr Suicide from Word Horde.

Caitlin Kiernan







Kiernan has been producing dark fiction since the early 1990s but I first found her fiction with the publication of the sublime The Drowning Girl: A Memoir in 2012. She has produced 10 novels, a whole bunch of comic books and hundreds of pieces of short fiction. She’s also a published palaeontologist to boot. The two works of Kiernan’s that I want to talk about are The Red Tree (UK, USA) and The Drowning Girl: A Memoir (UK, USA).

I’ve discussed The Red Tree before and so I’ll let that review speak for itself. Suffice to say this is one of the best pieces of cosmic horror produced in the last decade, at least the last decade.

The Drowning Girl: A Memoir is in some ways similar to The Red Tree in that it deals with an unreliable narrator who is fully aware that they are an unreliable narrator and makes no attempt to hide it. The Drowning Girl is the story of India Morgan Phelps, or Imp, a young woman with an undefined mental health issue kept stable with medication who has an encounter with a naked woman she meets by the side of a deserted road one spring, or possibly winter, who is a mermaid, or possibly a werewolf, and the affect this has on Imp and her relationship with her games journalist girlfriend.

Kiernan’s prose is utterly beautiful and her ability to build a sense of disorientation and weird horror is second to none.

Livia Llewellyn







Livia Llewellyn is a writer of erotically charged weird fiction. She has one collection of her short fiction currently available, 2011’s Engines of Desire: Tales of Love and Other Horrors (UK, USA), but has at least one new collection due out this year (I think).

I talked briefly about her story Furnace in my ongoing review of The Year’s Best Weird Fiction -you can read that here, which first appeared in the Thomas Ligotti tribute anthology The Grimscribe’s Puppets (UK, USA).

Another story of particular note that was published recently is It Feels Better Biting Down which was published in Nightmare Magazine’s October 2014 special Women Destroy Horror! special issue. A story of twin sisters with a special birth defect who encounter something weird that changes them completely yet somehow makes them even more themselves. Llewellyn’s language is rather erotically charged which adds to the discomfort the story instils in the reader.


These are just three of the prominent women currently writing wonderful weird fiction and who are some of the driving forces behind the weird renaissance that is presently underway. They are by no means alone in this however. There are some amazing women working in the field, too many in fact for me to even consider writing briefly about. We have the likes of Molly Tanzer, Gemma Files, A.C. Wise, Joyce Carol Oates, Ellen Datlow, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Allyson Bird, Kathe Koja, and so many, many more. So many in fact that it seems absurd that we should need a Women in Horror Month and it is a sad fact, considering the breath taking quality of the work produced, that we still do.

New Wave of the Weird?

A bit of a stream of consciousness ramble in response to a really interesting piece on Teleread:

Writer Paul StJohn Mackintosh has a fantastic little article on Teleread contrasting the New Weird with the New Wave of Fantasy/Science Fiction that emerged in the 1960/70s. The New Wave of Fantasy/SF was politically aware, experimental, and pushed at the boundaries of genre that were just then beginning to solidify into the forms in which we know them today. A phenomenon that appeared to have had its last gasp in the cyberpunk explosion of the 1980s. He lays some of the blame for this seeming stagnation in the realm of F/SF at the feet of Hollywood and its attendant marketing machine. The explosion that was Star Wars and the ensuing product branding and marketing acted as a barrier in genre, ‘sentries on the walls of the sci-fi ghetto‘ as StJohn Mackintosh puts it, serving to brush aside and exclude those who would seek to push at those genre defining walls.

It is the opinion of StJohn Mackintosh that Dark/Weird Fiction and Cosmic Horror have stepped up to fill in the gap left yawing by Science Fiction. That it is now the Weird that is the playground for imagination that Science Fiction once was. I do believe that he is right in this. As Science Fiction and Fantasy have become ever more mainstream over the last 30+ years they have become more strictly defined. The Weird, on the other hand, defies such strict definition. Stories of the Weird can sit squat on the outskirts of any of the readily existing genres or outside of genre conventions all together.

What does it say about our society and our time that the genre best suited to it, which is producing the most striking and imaginative writers, is rank with despair, nihilism, terror, cosmic doubt and anomie, and pure and simple horror? Well, try putting a Gernsback– or even a Kurzweil-style spin on 9/11, Iraq, the GFC, Wikileaks, ebola, etc. What kind of faith can even the lay public retain in progress, science and technology that not only have failed to stop Al Qaeda and ISIS, but have even produced climate change and global warming? Let alone an America that has ceased to believe that progress is its ally.

Whilst it is undoubtedly true that much of the Weird is shot through with nihilism, terror, and despair I think that there is more to the reason for the Weird’s ascendancy as the playground for the literary imagination. 

I have written before about how the First World War was a point of cultural rupture that inspired the modernists, both high and low, and which ushered in an age of great ideological conflict. An all pervasive dichotomy  defined as capitalism/communism or east/west. We see a similar dichotomy in the work of HP Lovecraft with his horror being about both the rupture as the world changes and the dichotomies of known/unknown, natural/unnatural, civilised/non-civilised, human/non-human, WASP/non-WASP. These early works of the Weird, of Cosmic Horror, are rather illustrative of the emergence of, what would become, the global stalemate of the ‘cold’ conflict between the USSR and the USA. Over the course of the 20th Century the conflict changed from being an ideological one, as the USSR evolved into a state-capitalist mode of production, into being a conflict between two competing forms of the same economic model. It was capitalism fighting with itself about how it worked best. 

It was in this context that the New Wave emerged as artists reacted to the potential ‘hot’ conflict between these two monolithic entities. They had to find new ways to express this cultural paradigm. 

The world has again changed dramatically over the last two and a half decades. The fall of the Eastern Bloc, the events of 9/11 and the various conflicts around the world which have come in its wake -Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria etc- and the increasingly apparent effects of man made climate change(me from the 1990s says “I bloody well told you so”) have reshaped how we perceive our world. No longer is the threat to our civilisation an easily understandable conflict between two powers. Now there are so many factors at play it can be difficult to keep track of them all.

In Syria we have the rise of the, initially US backed, Islamic State who we are told are bad guys, and they most definitely are, yet those who are doing the best job of resisting them are the PKK who are also, we are told, bad guys. (Incidentally there have been some extremely interesting developments with the PKK and their move towards libertarian municipalism and away from left leaning nationalism) We have the increase in natural disasters caused by climate change, the resulting increase in migration. We have the rise of right wing racist organisations capitalising on the increase in migration. We have the economic cluster-fuck that is being exploited by the various ruling classes of the world to tighten their grip on their respective societies through the implementation of austerity measures. We have the increasing frequency of revelations of corruption and outright bastardry in the establishment. Chaos rather than simple conflict is the order of the day. 

It is because of this emergent obviousness of the chaos that is the world that the Weird has become the playground for those wishing to play in the literary laboratory. Science Fiction and Fantasy have become so constrained by their marketing that it becomes near impossible to use these forms to explore the constant flux and rupture of life in late capitalism. The Weird allows for near complete freedom in the artist’s approach to interpreting and presenting the world to itself. A freedom that was once enjoyed by F/SF in the time of the New Wave writers.

It isn’t simply the despair and nihilism that runs through the Weird that allows it to act as such a powerful tool for authors in the present age. It is the wild abandon with which authors can approach a theme that mirrors the chaos and turmoil in which we find ourselves. We no longer see the progress of humanity as being anywhere evidenced; perhaps this is because so much recent technological development of late has been personal -the mobile phone/pc, the internet, medicines. These things are all subtle and hidden from view. They may have changed the world but they haven’t put people on the Moon. Now we see chaos and disorder – The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere | The ceremony of innocence is drowned | The best lack all conviction, while the worst | Are full of passionate intensity – where once we saw ourselves as part of a grand narrative.

This doesn’t, however, necessitate despair or nihilism. It does however necessitate the need for an approach that is free of the constraints of genre which have developed over the last half a century or so. The new paradigm needs a new literary tool kit. The Weird is that tool kit.

Black Man With a Horn – T.E.D. Klein

I have heard repeated mentions of the T.E.D. Klein story ‘Black Man With a Horn’  over the last few years and have heard it described as both masterful and a classic weird tale. I had read ‘The Events at Poroth Farm’ in S.T. Joshi and Guillermo del Toro’s American Supernatural Tales -part of a series curated by del Toro for Penguin- and had thoroughly enjoyed it. It is an extremely unsettling story and I highly recommend it. However that was the extent of my reading of T.E.D. Klein. I set out to try and find a copy of the story online, it dates from the early 1980s/late 1970s so there was every chance it may be sat on the internet somewhere, but for the life of me I couldn’t find it. It appears in S.T. Joshi’s monumental collection A Mountain Walked but that’s ever so slightly out of my price range. It does look beautiful though.

Illustration from A Mountain Walked for Black Man With a Horn
Illustration from A Mountain Walked for Black Man With a Horn

I eventually found a copy of Cthulhu 2000 from Del Ray which included the story. Not quite so sumptuously presented I’ll admit but the volume does include an amazing array of authors including Thomas Ligotti, Michael Shea, Harlan Ellison, and Ramsey Campbell amongst others. £3 well spent by any measure. I eagerly jumped into the story at the first chance I got which was, inevitably, on my morning commute to work. It soon dawned on me that reading this story at the present time, what with all the hoo haa that’s going on surrounding HPL and the World Fantasy Award, was somewhat fitting. The protagonist of the story is an old man, an author of weird fiction who was a contemporary of Lovecraft’s who has outlived his deceased friend and seen the world change around him. He harbours many of the same prejudices that Lovecraft did though to a far lesser extent. Of this character I would actually buy the ‘man of his time’ argument as there is no hatred to his racism, merely an understanding of how the world works stunted by culture and, to an extent, ignorance. The character’s racism is also tempered by a misanthropy that causes him to scorn most people regardless of race or ethnicity.

It was, in fact, a thorny problem: forced to choose between whites whom I despised and blacks whom I feared, I somehow preferred the fear.

The tale is littered with passages like the one above where the protagonist expresses his discomfort with the world that has changed around him, leaving him trapped in a present that it alien and which shows no sign of ceasing in becoming more so as time progresses. Many of these passages are addressed directly to Lovecraft as he imagines his old friend’s reaction to the world as it is now, well -as it was in the 1970s, and how badly he reacted to the New York that he knew in the early 1920s when he was driven by his fear to pen The Horror at Red Hook. It is a brilliant set up for a weird tale as the protagonist is already alienated from the world around him and so it doesn’t take much to push him into the world of the truly weird.

The horror of this story is based on a cult mentioned by both  August Derleth and Lovecraft, the Tcho-Tcho, and the protagonist’s investigation into their connection with the disappearance of a missionary with whom he becomes acquainted on a flight. I shan’t go into the plot, track the story down and read it, as that’s not what I wanted to discuss here. I think that  the most notable thing about the story, for me at the moment anyway, is Klein’s handling of the prejudices of the protagonist and how he conflates them with Lovecraft’s own, much more vitriolic, bigotry. It illustrates quite well the difference between the racism of a person who is ‘of their time’ and the shocking racism espoused by HPL. It is a nice exploration of the sense of displacement that a person can feel as they are left behind by the world as they age and how, eventually, they can come to peace with the inevitability of change and the alien. As the narrator does at the end of the tale.

The description of this story as a masterpiece of weird fiction is quite accurate. Whilst the story itself may not be quite as boundary pushing as some of the work being produced by today’s masters in the field it is brilliantly executed and the subtler aspects of the story have made this a new favourite of mine. I’ll definitely be seeking out everything else written by T.E.D. Klein.

Oh, and I should say that you probably shouldn’t read this if you can’t stomach the expressions of attitudes and prejudices that don’t gel with your own.

Ten Little Chapters

Trying Mr Wendig‘s flash fiction challenge again. This time the challenge is to write a story in ten chapters and in a thousand words or less. Challenge accepted.


Herbert Collins was dead. Of that there was little doubt. His death had been extremely public. Herbert Collins had been consumed by dark flames in the stands at the 3:30 Liverpool vs. Chelsea non league friendly match on a bright and Saturday afternoon in July. Strangely none of the people in the stands around him were injured by his incineration.

They were, no doubt, extremely traumatised by the event.

Something that was clear to Inspector Harrison as he questioned them one after another in the interview room at Gallashiels Road Police Station.


On the moors, high above Sheffield, Mandy and her friend Ashley stood over the corpse of Michael. Michael had been, until just recently, Ashley’s boyfriend. Had been until he had tried to cop a feel of Mandy at Tommy Pratchett’s birthday party last week.

Having lured him to the moor that afternoon they planned on giving him a bit of a scare with some cod Latin and Mandy’s uncles book of black magic spells he had from back in the 70s. They didn’t think for a moment that it would bloody well work!



I am always sleeping.

Until you call.


Inspector Harrison looked down upon the charred remains of Herbert Collins laid out on a metal slab in the morgue at St Anne’s.

“What caused it then Charlie?”

The coroner adjusted his spectacles.

“Well. Cause of death is, rather obviously, um… well. I’m still not a hundred percent certain… but I think that it’s probably safe to say that he burned to death.”

“You don’t say? Any idea what started it? Fuel on his clothes? Spontaneous bloody human combustion?”

“Sorry Ian. We’ll know more by the morning I’m sure.”

“This has to be the strangest bloody thing I’ve seen since…”

“Let’s not dwell on the past eh Ian? I’ll call you as soon as I know anything more.”


“Jesus fucking Christ, Mandy, what the fuck just happened?”

Both girls were covered in blood and parts of Michael that had, until moments ago, been inside Michael rather than outside.

“How the fuck am I supposed to know! It was that fucking book! I’m going to kill Uncle Terry, he said it was just bullshit. Like one of those nerdy games your brother plays!”

“Did you see it?”


“The thing. The thing that did that!” Ashley pointed at the viscera that had been Michael.

“The thing. Yes. I saw it.”

She wiped blood from her mouth and, realising it was coming from her nose, passed out.


The sins of the father

The sins of the son

Father is son

Son is father


“You aren’t going to like this inspector.”

Harrison sighed and placed his face in his hands, elbows resting on his paper cluttered desk.

“What is it Simms?”

“Turns out that your human torch only had one relative. A boy, Michael. Seems he was missing for a few days until they found him this morning.”

“They did find him then?”

“Well, what was left of him sir. It sounds like there wasn’t much left to find. They’ve taken two girls into custody over in Sheffield. Said that you were welcome to come over and question them.”

“And why would I want to do that then?”

“Well, they said that there may well not be a link but that they have, and I quote, ‘a bloody strange one’ and they figured seeing as you had ‘a bloody strange one’ involving the father it couldn’t hurt to compare notes.”


The girls sat together in the smoking yard of the custody suite at Pittston Police Station. Harrison approached them pulling a twenty pack of king size Regal from his jacket pocket. He offered it to the girls who both took one despite having lit cigarettes in their hands.

“You know, they banned smoking in these places years ago.” He put the flame of his lighter to the cigarette in his mouth. “I guess they’re making special dispensation for you two, on account of what you saw. Lucky for me.”

Ashley tapped the ash of her cigarette onto the floor.

“Yeah. Fucking lucky.”

“So. What did you see?”


All the things you hate

All your anger

I am all


Ashley took a draw of her cigarette.

“We only meant to scare him like.”


“No, fucking Marilyn Manson, who do you think?”

“Sorry. I just have to be clear. It was just the three of you up on the moor then?”

“Yes. We had this old book. Mandy got it from her uncle. Ow!”

Mandy had thumped her on the knee.

“I never thought it would work! My uncle said it was just some bullshit book he had had for years.” Mandy looked close to crying. Both their eyes were red from tears and probably from lack of sleep too.

“That’s ok. I don’t think either of you are in trouble. We don’t think either of you could have done what happened to Michael.

We just need to understand what happened.

You do know that Michael’s father died yesterday too and that I’m investigating this over in Liverpool?”

“That detective from here said. Cunt.” Ashley spat on the floor.

“The detective?”

“No. Bert. Michael’s father.”

“Did they get on?”

“No. But. That’s the thing.” Ashley started crying and looked away from the Inspector.

“It’s alright.” Mandy put her arm round her friend.

“It’s not fucking alright!” She stood screaming in her friends face “You fucking saw it as well. That fucking thing! You saw what it was. Fucking WHO it was!” Ashley was backing away from them towards the centre of the smoking yard.

“Who was it Ashley? Just tell me and we can go and get them. Make sure that they can never do this again.” He stepped towards her.

“When we said the words. Those stupid sounding fucking words. Michael just started shaking. And then this shape… Out of nowhere… started ripping him apart. It was his fucking father!”


1000 words on the nose. 🙂